Abbotsford’s high schools can boast of a solid rugby tradition, but they can’t hold a candle in that regard to Durham School and Sherborne School.
The two English boarding institutions, which brought their boys rugby sides to Abbotsford for a series of exhibition games against Abbotsford Rugby Football Club (ARFC) youth teams on Tuesday, are two of the four oldest rugby-playing schools in the world. Sherborne started fielding rugby teams in 1847, with Durham taking up the sport in 1850.
The English squads swept all three games at Rotary Stadium, but being exposed to players steeped in that level of rugby culture was an immensely valuable experience for the locals.
“It’s great for our kids to be exposed to a different style of rugby,” said Doug Primrose of the ARFC. “Those kids’ skill level is obviously very high because they’ve been playing for so many years, and that’s good for our kids to see.”
In Tuesday’s opener, Durham’s second team blasted the ARFC’s U18 squad 38-5, with Noah Bain scoring the lone Abby try. Durham’s first team followed with a 29-21 triumph over the Abbotsford all-city team, featuring top players from local high school squads. Brandon Ho, Thomas Choi and Jason Hignell accounted for the Abby tries, with Spencer Miller booting three converts.
Sherborne completed the English sweep with a 32-24 win over Abbotsford’s U19 team, despite potent offensive performances from Ryan Kaethler (two tries) and Connor Hunter (one try, three converts and a penalty kick).
“They were very competitive games, and we were able to put a couple of really good sides together,” Primrose said. “Our kids tend to play a bit more physical style than them, so we were able to take it to them in that way. But then, any time we’d have a defensive error or turn the ball over, they have the potential to go 60 to 70 metres in the other direction.”